By Sheena Williams
Killeen Daily Herald
Brisk winds swayed the green fronds and ribbons of seven wreaths that lay waiting at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen on Saturday morning.
The Wreaths Across America Ceremony brought veterans, soldiers and individuals to the cemetery. Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, III Corps and Fort Hood commander, reminded the thoughtful crowd that the laurels are a modest symbol of thanks for the immense sacrifices past, present and future veterans pay as the hefty price of freedom.
"This Wreaths Across America started 15 years ago at Arlington Cemetery and here we are now at an event that's nationwide, 350 different locations. And over the course of the day 100,000 wreaths will be laid," Lynch said.
"We stand here on hallowed ground – almost 1,500 veterans who have sacrificed their lives in service to our nation. We have to take the time to remember the fallen. Freedom isn't free, it never has been free, and they indeed sacrificed themselves for the greater good."
Each wreath is designated for a branch of service and was placed alongside the cemetery's arching stone memorial, except for one.
J.E. Carlisle firmly held the last wreath in his frail hands as he was escorted to the center of the memorial.
With a crisp salute, the former prisoner of war stared out into the sweeping countryside surrounding the cemetery as his wreath was laid in remembrance of all POWs. He was captured in Italy on Sept. 13 1942, during World War II – a day he won't ever forget.
"They sacrificed their lives with a lot of heartaches and hard times for their country so I think they should be recognized," he said with his proud wife on his arm.
After the gun salutes and closing remarks, the crowd dispersed as the sounds of cheerful, young voices and scurrying feet filled the site.
Girl Scout Troop 6258 got a closer look and a deeper understanding of the heroes who won't ever be forgotten.
"They helped us have freedom," the group chimed in unison.
"If we didn't have veterans, we wouldn't be able to do what we want to do. People would tell us what to do," 9-year-old Alexa Carroll added.
Contact Sheena Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553.